Essential but Disposable Labour: Migrant Workers Exploited in Canada
Migrant workers are a vital part of Canada. For decades they have kept Canada’s economy moving by performing essential work. Yet they are treated as disposable.
In this podcast, we will hear from migrant workers, in their own words, about the conditions they face in Canada. Policy experts and service providers will also share their insights and experiences.
Episode 6: Dead Ends
In this episode, our host Sarah Guinta is joined by Shelley Gilbert (Legal Assistance Windsor) and Hannah Deegan (Associations for the Rights of Household and Farmworkers).
Together, they engage in a discussion about available remedies to workers who have experienced abuse and exploitation. While some options are available, all lead to precarity and have potential for further exploitation.
Episode 6 Transcript [PDF]
Employment Protection for Foreign Nationals Act
Profiting from the Precarious – How recruitment practices exploit migrant workers, by Fay Faraday, 2014: While this research paper is from 2014, many of the issues related to the recruitment practices have not changed. Click here to read it.
Open Work Permit for Vulnerable Workers
Band-Aid on a Bullet Wound—Canada’s Open Work Permit for Vulnerable Workers Policy, an analysis by Depatie-Pelletier, Eugénie, Hannah Deegan, and Katherine Berze, 2022. Click here to read it.
A Promise of Protection? An assessment of IRCC decision-making under the VWOWP program, Amanda Aziz, Migrant Workers Centre, 2022. Click here to read it.
Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program Policy
Click here to read the program policy.
COVID-19 Outbreaks in Canada and the Crisis of Migrant Farmworkers’ Social Reproduction: Transnational Labour and the Need for Greater Accountability Among Receiving States, Vosko, L.F., Spring, C, 2022: Click here to read this analysis of the policy.
Unheeded Warnings: COVID-19 & Migrant Workers in Canada, Migrant Workers Alliance for Change, 2020: Click here to read it.
Temporary Residence Permit Policy
Click here to read the policy.
Temporary Resident Permits: Limits to protection for trafficked persons, Canadian Council for Refugees.
Canada’s Caregiver Program
Click here to read about it the program.
An intersectional pathway penalty: Filipina immigrant women inside and outside Canada’s Live-In Caregiver Program. Naomi Lightman, Rupa Banerjee, Ethel Tungohan, Conely de Leon, Philip Kelly, 2021: Click here to read this analysis.
Some solutions suggested by the speakers:
Our theme music is Whir, by Bio Unit.
This podcast is funded by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Toronto.
Episode 5: Working Hard and Abandoned
In this episode, host Sarah Guinta is joined by Jim, a migrant worker from the Caribbean. Jim shares his experience living and working on different farms in Canada. Jim experienced a high level of abuse and was granted a Temporary Resident Permit for a few years and denied a subsequent renewal which would have allowed him to apply for permanent residency in Canada. With no option to return home, Jim feels abandoned by Canada. He says: “They let us down a great deal. I am speaking on behalf of all the others in situations like that.”
Episode 5 Transcript [PDF]
Temporary Resident Permit: Click here to learn what is it and how inconsistencies of this policy leave migrants like Jim with no options for redress.
FCJ Refugee Centre: Click here to visit them online.
Episode 4: High Hopes and Shattered Lives
In this episode, host Sarah Guinta is joined by Alvaro, a former migrant worker from Mexico. Alvaro shares his experiences working in a greenhouse in Leamington, Ontario. He also delves into the complex situation in his home country, and the impact of separation from his family and community.
Episode 4 Transcript [PDF]
Episode 3: Packing Hope in a Bag
In this episode, Elizabeth and Jesson Reyes from the Migrant Resource Centre Canada and Migrante Ontario share the story of migrants leaving their families and communities behind in order to survive.
This installment focuses on the Philippines and the economic and political situation pushing people to migrate. It also highlights Canada’s role in this displacement and human suffering.
Episode 3 Transcript [PDF]
Episode 2: The Permanence of Temporariness, Racism of the Canadian Labour Migration Programs
In this episode, Fay Faraday discusses the racism interwoven into the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, one of the several Labour Migration Programs allowing workers worldwide to be hired by Canadian employers. Touching on the history of the TFWP and Canadian immigration laws, Fay highlights how racist and unjust policies legislate migrant workers into exploitation.
Episode 2 Transcript [PDF]
Support the work and actions of the Migrant Rights Network.
Fay Faraday is a human rights lawyer and associate professor at Osgoode Hall. She has written extensively on the precarious conditions created and perpetuated by Canadian policy, notably the Temporary Foreign Worker Program. Some of her research work can be found here.
Episode 1: Denied by Design
In this episode, Gabriel Allahdua, an activist, author, and former agricultural migrant worker, joins host Sarah Guinta to discuss the racism of Canadian immigration policies that deny the humanity of migrant workers. In the face of these challenges, migrant workers are organizing and resisting, working for systemic change.
Migrant workers, especially those funneled through the low-wage stream of the Temporary Foreign Workers Program, are excluded from basic freedoms Canadians have and value. They are excluded from freely changing employers or reuniting with their families while working in Canada.
Gabriel’s book Harvesting Freedom can be ordered by clicking here or from other bookstores.
Tkaronto has been a home to many nations since time immemorial. These include the Huron-Wendat and Petun First Nations, the Seneca, and the Mississaugas of the Credit.
These nations were harmed by the arrival of European settlers who have systematically tried to erase these Indigenous communities and their teachings.
Colonialism and racism are deeply entrenched in the Canadian state. Collaborative Network to End Exploitation strives to decolonize our work and make a positive contribution to the reconciliation process.
We acknowledge the labour and sacrifices of poor and racialized workers on the lands known as Canada. This nation’s settler colonial history includes, among others, the exploited labour of:
- Over 200 years of enslaved African and Indigenous peoples.
- Chinese workers forced to pay a head tax to come and perform work considered too dangerous for Canadian workers.
- Agricultural and other migrant workers indentured to their employers with closed-work permits.
These and other violent practices allowed Canada to accumulate wealth and power. Canada continues to profit from the historic and ongoing exploitation of poor and racialized people. CNEE is committed to redressing this legacy.